More On Walking Back The Low Fat

Last week’s article provided a bit of historical perspective on how the elites could be so wrong for so long on dietary matters. Also included was one comment from Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), at the recent House Committee On Agriculture Hearing On 2015 Dietary Guidelines For Americans, which featured this put-down: “I just want you to understand from my constituents, most of them don’t believe this stuff anymore. You have lost your credibility with a lot of people, and they are just flat-out ignoring this stuff.”

During the same hearing, and referring to the obesity epidemic, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack: “Are Americans healthier or less healthy since the guidelines have been published, and therefore, are these—have these—in some way, have these guidelines somewhat failed?”

The Congressional hearing was convened primarily to address the 571-page document, issued in February, 2015, entitled “Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.” This report has a major influence on the Dietary Guidelines themselves, to be issued before the end of the year. The report generated an incredible 29,000 public comments, way up from the 8,000 posted during the 2010 iteration of the Committee.

Perhaps the most comprehensive—not to mention withering—critique of the report was done by Nina Teicholz, bestselling author of The Big Fat Surprise. Here’s the elevator pitch for this well-reviewed book:

“Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz reveals the unthinkable: that everything we thought we knew about dietary fats is wrong. She documents how the past sixty years of low-fat nutrition advice has amounted to a vast uncontrolled experiment on the entire population, with disastrous consequences for our health.”

“For decades, we have been told that the best possible diet involves cutting back on fat, especially saturated fat, and that if we are not getting healthier or thinner it must be because we are not trying hard enough. But what if the low-fat diet is itself the problem? What if those exact foods we’ve been denying ourselves—the creamy cheeses, the sizzling steaks—are themselves the key to reversing the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease?”

Working off a small grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Teicholz published “A Critical Review of the Science for Key Recommendations in the 2015 Report by the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee” on September 20, 2015. An abridged version appeared a few days later in theBMJ. Some key findings…

1.     The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) admits that its recommended diets fail to meet adequacy goals for a number of essential vitamins and nutrients including potassium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E.

2.     Although the report seems to favor whole grains, it still recommends three servings per day of refined grains, despite acknowledging that refined carbohydrates worsen certain heart disease risk factors.

3.     DGAC is still mired in the saturated fat/heart disease meme, and purposely ignores the latest evidence to the contrary. Indeed, it still recommends a low fat diet.

4.     DGAC trashes low carb, and willfully denies boatloads of favorable evidence. Teicholz provides 141 published references.

5.     For its review of the relevant literature, DGAC relied on outside entities for 63% of the work. In many cases, these were industry trade associations, or individuals directly supported by them.

6.     Inexplicably, DGAC members are not required to reveal potential conflicts of interest. One member has received funding from the tree nut industry, and two have been funded by vegetable oil companies, whose types of products (polyunsaturated vegetable oils) are promoted in the report. The DGAC chair, a non-academic, is president of a company that directly benefits from DGAC positions, and dietary orthodoxy in general.

 

Teicholz assiduously documents these points and more. Yet, there are some voices that express disagreement.

One, of course, is DGAC itself. In essence, it mostly denies Teicholz’s allegations, but offers scant factual basis, and categorizes her critique as nothing more than an effort to boost book sales. Apparently, committee member Miriam Nelson has no interest whatsoever in selling her own oeuvre of ten popular books. DGAC seems blissfully unaware of its “echo chamber” mentality, and clings to the puerile notion that any vetting process at all could overcome its inherent bias toward institutional orthodoxy.

Another is the inaptly named Center for Science in the Public Interest. To attack Teicholz, CSPI offers a call to authority: “[T]he DGAC’s advice is consistent with dietary advice from virtually every major health authority, including the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, the American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society, World Health Organization, and the Obesity Society.”

Hey guys, if obesity were decreasing, maybe then you could invoke these pathetic self-serving trade groups. Is it just a coincidence that obesity started to be a major problem the same year the first guidelines were published (1980)? Would you also continue to cite as an expert Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who averred a few weeks before the 1929 stock market crash, “There is no cause to worry. The high tide of prosperity will continue”?

Finally, it must be said that there is no love lost between CSPI and Teicholz, in that she outed CSPI’s chief ghoul Michael Jacobson as being instrumental in promoting trans fats—supposedly as a substitute for evil saturated fats.

Given 35 years of epic failure, maybe it’s time to agree with Rep. Peterson, and just ignore the Committee altogether.

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14 responses to “More On Walking Back The Low Fat

  1. Yes, a well reviewed book, but did any of the reviewers fact check the book? Obviously not.

    • @Andrew–
      I promise you that her book was fact-checked far, far better than Ancel Keys’ theories ever were. (Keys was the originator of the sat fat = heart disease meme.)

      But please. Do enlighten us with some fact that is wrong in her book.

      Do you know that Keys’ all time favorite place that “proved” his theory was the island of Crete? When he took the data, the Cretans were not eating any meat, thus had low sat fat in their diet, and also had very low heart disease.

      Only, Ancel baby didn’t seem to mind that the data was taken during Lent—a time in which none of the residents ate any meat. Upon this clown and fraud was built the sat fat heart disease theory.

  2. @Andrew–
    Perhaps you are not aware that Teicholz has already answered much of this..

    Also, why does “Carbsane” not reveal her full name?

    BTW–What is your dog in this fight?

    • She claims to have adequately addressed her critics, but if you look at the substance of her “rebuttal” she answers very little.

      • @Seth–Please provide a specific example. And while you’re at it, what IS it with you low-fat groupies, anyway? Besides Nina Teciholz, there are dozens of critics, and hundreds of papers destroying the absurd low fat/high carb hypothesis.

        Funny how you challenge her. OK–take this challenge:

        Maybe it’s time for your cabal to own up to 50 years of increased morbidity and mortality, based on this absurd low fat nonsense–all driven by an echo chamber of idiotic “scientists” like Keys, Kempner, Frank Sacks (he of “low carb doesn’t work—we proved that with our 40% carb diet study”) and the rest.

        Not to mention the food industry and the compliant Dept of Ag, which by the way right now is going through major internal battles pre-release of the Guidelines. And who can forget the absolute ghouls of the AHA and ADA–tainted with Big Pharma cash.

        One more thing–the basis of all science is observation. Perhaps you have observed an epidemic of obesity and so-called type 2 diabetes in the wake of this crap. While correlation is not causation, perhaps it should make you stop and think.

        • I can provide plenty of specific examples, but Teicholz does not rebut anything specifically of mine, so I cannot address a specific rebuttal. In her official response she simply says that I am ignorant of the field and sloppy. No citation from her regarding a specific error on my part. She had previously linked to a document about her paperback corrections, but that link now appears to be broken. Nevertheless, I looked through it and found mainly corrections of minor typos and page number citations. I did not notice anything that would affect my critique, at least not significantly. If you have evidence to the contrary then I will gladly take a look at it.

          Teicholz and I actually had a meetup planned where I wanted her to disabuse me of what she claimed to be my ignorance of the nutrition field. (See here: http://www.foodpolitics.com/2015/02/dietary-guidelines-shouldnt-be-this-controversial/#comment-1872201386) It was all set and I drove to Austin to meet her, but she backed out four hours before our meeting.

          “And while you’re at it, what IS it with you low-fat groupies, anyway?”

          My response to this can be found here: https://thescienceofnutrition.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/adele-hite-nina-teicholz-and-logical-fallacies/
          Particularly the paragraph that begins with “Although this kind of argumentation is clearly based on flawed reasoning…”

          “Besides Nina Teciholz, there are dozens of critics, and hundreds of papers destroying the absurd low fat/high carb hypothesis.”

          I don’t care how many critics there are. I care about the evidence supporting the criticism. Or not supporting as the case may be.

          • @Seth–
            Perhaps I can simply things here…

            1.     It is undeniable that the low fat/sat fat is evil meme was catalyzed by our government being in a desperate search for the “cause” of heart disease—especially in the wake of Eisenhower’s 1955 heart attack.

            2.     The previously obscure AHA found itself the recipient of tons of cash from the food industry, and the anti-fat push came largely from the totally discredited work of Keys. As I have often asked—If Keys was so great, why did your side never acknowledge his early finding that dietary cholesterol does not affect serum cholesterol?

            3.     As to the “science” involved here, since a goodly portion of dietary studies are based–lazily enough–on patient recall, most of them can simply be discarded. There is no such thing in science as “virtual observation”!

            4.     Teicholz and company are at the very least proffering an explanation for the meteoric rise in obesity, which your side either ignores completely, or blames on lack of physical activity—knowing full well that it is virtually impossible to lose weight based on exercise alone. More than that, you deny the difficulty of flat-out calorie reduction in the absence of a higher-fat diet.

            5.     Teicholz’s attack on the DGAC cites 141 published articles showing the benefits of low carb, yet you are still talking only about her book. Of course, you’re in good company, I guess, since DGAC also ignored these references, claiming that no such body of literature even existed.

            6.     Finally, Teicholz’s motives on getting into this topic were simon pure! She was overweight, and listened to false experts—such as you, Seth—but couldn’t lose any weight until she went low-carb. Being a reporter, she wanted to dig deeper. Incidentally, bestselling author Diane Kress was a high-end nutritionist, with the same problem as Teicholz, until she threw off the shackles of low-fat.

            • I appreciate the simplicity. It seems you’ve swallowed and parroted the talking points quite nicely which will make this easy for me.

              1. It is undeniable that the low fat/sat fat is evil meme was catalyzed by our government being in a desperate search for the “cause” of heart disease—especially in the wake of Eisenhower’s 1955 heart attack.

              Care to cite some evidence for this? Should be easy if it’s undeniable. Since the creation of the guidelines, the recommendations have always been to consume about 1/3 fat. Is this tantamount to a low fat “meme”?

              2. The previously obscure AHA found itself the recipient of tons of cash from the food industry, and the anti-fat push came largely from the totally discredited work of Keys. As I have often asked—If Keys was so great, why did your side never acknowledge his early finding that dietary cholesterol does not affect serum cholesterol?

              A few things:
              a) The AHA comment is a non sequitur.
              b) Keys was never discredited. What happened was Gary Taubes made up some lies about Keys and people copied it over and over without bothering to investigate if the claim was true. See here: https://thescienceofnutrition.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/fat-in-the-diet-and-mortality-from-heart-disease-a-plagiaristic-note/
              c) Regarding cholesterol, your claim is untrue. It’s actually people like Teicholz that don’t acknowledge that. See here: https://thescienceofnutrition.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/the-big-fat-surprise-a-critical-review-part-1/ Particularly the part stat starts off “Continuing with the dietary cholesterol controversy…”

              d) My side? What is “my side”? Clearly you did not read my earlier comment where I link to my response that begins with “Although this kind of argumentation is clearly based on flawed reasoning…” If you did you would have realized I have no side. If you want to claim otherwise please provide evidence.

              3. As to the “science” involved here, since a goodly portion of dietary studies are based–lazily enough–on patient recall, most of them can simply be discarded. There is no such thing in science as “virtual observation”!

              For someone that acts like a science expert, it’s clear you know very little. There are many ways to evaluate diet in a scientific study. A 24-hour recall is but one. There are also metabolic ward studies, metabolic kitchen studies, food frequency questionnaires, prescriptive diet studies…. By the way, if you want to discard any studies involving recall, you will have to discard many studies that show a benefit of a low-carb diet as well. Low carb proponents like to say any study not favoring their diet is not “good science” because it uses methodologies like recall or something similar, but have no trouble citing studies with the very same methodologies in their favor.

              4. Teicholz and company are at the very least proffering an explanation for the meteoric rise in obesity, which your side either ignores completely, or blames on lack of physical activity—knowing full well that it is virtually impossible to lose weight based on exercise alone. More than that, you deny the difficulty of flat-out calorie reduction in the absence of a higher-fat diet.

              Actually, Teicholz and company are at the very least misrepresenting the scientific literature and actively hurting people that want to be healthier.
              And what’s my side again? Clearly you know, but I don’t. Please inform me which side I am on, and tell me how you came to that conclusion.
              Also, if I devote quite a bit of time to fact-check people like Taubes and Teicholz then I am not ignoring it completely. And I don’t know to what “side” you are referring, but there have been plenty of other critics of Teicholz and company, so, again how is that ignoring it completely? Also, where am I denying “the difficulty of flat-out calorie reduction in the absence of a higher-fat diet”?

              5. Teicholz’s attack on the DGAC cites 141 published articles showing the benefits of low carb, yet you are still talking only about her book. Of course, you’re in good company, I guess, since DGAC also ignored these references, claiming that no such body of literature even existed.
              I don’t know to what attack you are referring, but her recent publication in the BMJ only cites 66 references and certainly not all of them demonstrate the benefits of low carb. Is that what you’re talking about?

              6. Finally, Teicholz’s motives on getting into this topic were simon pure! She was overweight, and listened to false experts—such as you, Seth—but couldn’t lose any weight until she went low-carb. Being a reporter, she wanted to dig deeper. Incidentally, bestselling author Diane Kress was a high-end nutritionist, with the same problem as Teicholz, until she threw off the shackles of low-fat.

              You know Teicholz’s motives now? She has said a number of things when promoting her book, including that she was a vegetarian and also that she ate chicken and fish. Her narrative is that her “vegetarian diet” made her overweight, yet she accidentally lost weight by every now and then eating fatty meals for her restaurant reviewing gig. She never claims to have gone on a low-carb diet before her weight loss. Something doesn’t add up. At any rate, her motives are irrelevant. What is relevant is the evidence, which she apparently has to manipulate to make an argument.

  3. I put the diet professions in the basket I put the church of climatology and astrology. Full of shonky axe grinders and Shamans. Dieticians are guessworkers.

    What can’t be denied is the obesity epidemic itself. The human body and skeleton is designed to operate pretty well within the standard BMI limits. If this machine is heavily overloaded with various types of fat something will fail. That is a fairly well known principle of Engineering, bio-chemistry and bio-mechanics. In morbid obesity fat is the killer trigger but the fat that hangs so ungraciously on the morbidly obese frame is not the same fat they eat, It is the fat their own body has manufactured from the excess (energy) food they have put into their mouth. The body is programmed to convert most things we eat to useable sugars as energy sources for various bodily functions. It is also programmed to store unused sugar as fat around the body rather than waste it if not needed immediately.

    The solutions are two-fold. Eat less of everything. Eat nothing that is flavour-enhanced with sugar, and that includes fruit juice, and most big name prepared foods. We are what we eat. Exercize can be used to burn off stored fat if one can do it. But why eat too much then exercise for hours to remove the excess energy ingested. Excercise is the fat man’s treadmill with no useful output. Exercise shops make personal trainers rich.

    I am perhaps unqualified to express my opinion but… I have reduced my body weight by 60kg over the last twenty years. Both hips have been replaced and were in need of revision as was a knee. I was Type 2 diabetic and snored fit to wake the dead. Hypertensive. Etc etc. With help I am now back to my recommended riding weight and enjoying life to the full. Don’t snore either.

  4. “The solutions are two-fold. Eat less of everything. Eat nothing that is flavour-enhanced with sugar…”
    Well maybe if you are genetically preordained to be obese. But what you and many who are on this bandwagon seem to not understand is that there are a lot of people (the majority) who are not obese. What you are talking about is treating a genetic illness and yet you broadly apply it to everyone. I eat four meals a day and my last meal is all junk food. I prefer about 8 oz of chocolate but some nights it’s 8 chocolate chip cookies or a bag of chips or a piece of pie, etc. If I followed your advice I would die within a year weighing 72 lbs. YOU have a health problem. Your treatment for YOUR health problem is NOT good advice for everyone else in the world.

  5. Sorry GWTW, when I said we are what we eat I did not mean you would turn into a bar of chocolate. You draw a long bow with your prognosis if you followed my two solutions. I don’t think I have any health problems at present. But neither do smokers, alcoholics and schitzos. I did not aim to provide good advice to everyone else in the world, just my own opinion. Stick to your diet if it works for you.

  6. GoneWithTheWind

    No need to say “sorry”. If I misinterpreted your comments then my bad. My point about an illness was simply that you implied you were obese prior to dieting to lose weight. Obesity is genetic a beneficial trait when we all were hunter gatherers. Some today call it an illness/disease but it is nothing more than a genetic trait much like our height or body type. In a time of plenty as the entire first world enjoys today that trait to store fat works against us. I did not inherit the obesity trait and I eat everything in sight and I’m down 4 lbs.
    I wish there was a “magic” way to lose weight. I know many people who deal with being overweight or obese. But there isn’t. It isn’t a low fat diet (although any diet can reduce your weight). It isn’t a low carb diet (again any diet can reduce your weight) and it isn’t a high protein diet. It is really as simple as consuming fewer calories than you burn. So eat less, work out more and as everyone knows that can be a tough prescription to follow.

  7. @Seth–
    You truly are a doctrinaire moron. “What attack by Teicholz?” How about the one that is referenced in this very article you are commenting on!

    “Evidence” for needing an answer to heart disease after Eisenhower? Gee I dunno. Maybe some useless academic wrote some article that actually “proved” that the public got scared about heart disease after Eisenhower’s attack. It was a historical trend, sonny, a historical trend.

    You see, I have a brain, and I can perform inductive logic. Can you “prove” that the Beatles were a musical phenomenon? Can you “prove” that Marilyn Monroe was a big movie star?

    In your fantasy world, Keys will never be discredited, and in this same world Taubes is the only person attacking him. You know and I know that his work was attacked at the time it was published; long before Taubes. Go ahead and deny it.

    In the previous article I cited Malcolm Kendrick’s work, based on WHO statistics, that made an absolute mockery of Keys. How’s your reading comprehension?

    And yeah…recall studies are pure garbage, and they should be discarded. Please, stop with the 24-hour recall. I’ve seen studies based on periods of a month and longer. That’s evidence??

    And finally, fact-checking. Who paid you to fact check the hundreds of references in Teicholz’s book? Might that indicate that you have a “side”?

    I’m a science writer, and I know that to properly fact-check ONE article is time consuming. Teicholz referenced hundreds!

    So, either you are flat-out lying about doing the fact checking, or you are someone’s paid shill. Or maybe both. Time to ‘fess up, boy.

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